Biden’s Visit to the Middle East & Israel’s Position on the JCPOA

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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Biden’s Visit to the Middle East & Israel’s Position on the JCPOA 


Q: What were Biden’s priorities during his Israel visit? 

A: On Wednesday, July 13, President Biden arrived in Israel, his first visit to the Middle East since assuming the presidency. During his four-day stay in the region Biden met with officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Saudi Arabia. 

Upon landing in Israel, Biden issued a speech alongside Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Lapid and President Herzog, in which he voiced traditional U.S. support for Israeli security, U.S.-Israeli diplomatic and military cooperation, and the two-state solution. Following an exhibition of Israel’s defense technologies at Ben Gurion International Airport, Biden visited the Holocaust museum Yad Vashem where he met with Holocaust survivors. Biden then flew directly from Israel to Saudi Arabia, which he hailed as a sign of the potential for “Israel’s further integration into the region.”


Q: What were Biden’s priorities during his Palestine visit?

A: During Biden’s visit to the West Bank, he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and pledged $300 million in funding for hospitals and refugees. However, despite rhetorical commitment to the two-state solution, Biden identified that the “ground is not ripe at the moment to restart negotiations.” He also announced that 4G cellular internet access will be extended to the Palestinians, an initiative Israel has prevented in the past. Biden did not discuss his promise to reopen the PLO mission in Washington DC. 


Q: What statements did Biden make regarding Iran policy? 

A: During the visit in Israel, Biden signed the “Jerusalem Declaration,” vowing that the U.S. would do all it can to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear powers. In a joint press conference with Lapid, Biden emphasized that he remains committed to diplomacy as the primary tool in the U.S.’s Iran policy. 

During his visit to Saudi Arabia, Biden also sought to reassure Middle Eastern allies that the U.S. is still invested in the region, citing the Iran threat in particular. 


Q: How did other parties, such as Iran and Hamas, react to these statements? 

A: The Iranian foreign ministry decried that Biden used “Iranophobia” during his visit in the region to bolster existing tensions. 

Hamas rejected the Jerusalem Declaration as “an aggression,” specifically referring to the reaffirmations of U.S. commitment to Israeli military edge in the region.


Q: What is Israel’s position on the JCPOA? 

A: The Israeli policy towards Iran is centered around preventing its nuclearization. Israeli politicians, notably ex-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have long stressed that Iran poses an “existential threat” to the Jewish state. Israel is believed to have conducted countless cyberattacks and airstrikes aimed at undermining the Iranian nuclear project in the past decade. 

Amid the indirect talks in Vienna between Iran and the U.S. about the possible resurrection of the JCPOA in February 2022, former Israeli Prime Minister Bennet expressed his opposition to the deal. He added that Israel will not be bound by any potential nuclear agreement with Iran, and it will continue to operate to ensure a nuclear-free Iran. In April 2022, Biden announced that the U.S. will not comply with Iranian demand to remove the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps from the Foreign Terrorist Organization list, at the request of Bennet. 

Lapid, who spoke against the agreement in 2015, is expected to uphold Israel’s opposition to the JCPOA. In a joint press conference with Biden during the visit, he stressed that military prowess, rather than diplomacy, must be the primary tool to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions. 


Q: How has Israel’s position on the JCPOA changed since 2014? 

A: Following the signing of the JCPOA in 2015, Israeli politicians, spearheaded by Netanyahu, quickly lamented the deal as a “historic mistake.” The Israeli government backed efforts in the U.S. Congress to prevent the implementation of the deal. In March 2015, Netanyahu boldly spoke to the U.S. Congress amid the nuclear deal negotiations despite objections from Obama and figures in the Democratic Party; in his speech he lambasted the deal as “very bad” but offered no alternative. 

While Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum and security personnel appeared unified against the nuclear agreement, recently, the accelerating uranium enrichment appears to have undermined this cohesive stance. Security advisors began to challenge Israeli steadfast opposition to the deal. In June 2022, reports in the Israeli media indicated that senior defense and military officials support the revamping of the nuclear deal despite the official Israeli position. Defense Minister Gantz responded to the reports arguing that discourse about Israel’s Iran policy must be held “behind closed doors.” 


Q: When did Israel’s relations with Iran turn sour? 

A: Israel-Iran relations have not always been hostile. Following Shah Pahlavi’s rise to power in 1953, Iran became among the few countries in the Muslim world to recognize Israel’s sovereignty. Until the Iranian Revolution in 1979 that toppled the pro-West leader, Israel and Iran conducted close relations in areas such as security, the economy and aviation. While Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini initially maintained informal ties with Israel, which provided vast military support during the Iran-Iraq war, his successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei escalated the anti-Israel rhetoric. He cut all diplomatic ties with Israel, ushering an era of open hostility between the two countries. 

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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